Frudden v. Pilling

742 F.3d 1199 (9th Cir. 2014)

In October 2011, Kay Ann Pilling of the Parent Faculty Association pressed an non-secret ballot calling for school uniforms in a Reno Nevada School district. Despite voting irregularities, such as only seventy percent of ballots being counted, the measure went forward. Mary Frudden sued on several counts including the idea that it violated her students’ First Amendment right to free expression, particularly because the official uniforms included the school’s motto, “Tomorrow’s Leaders,” on the shirts. The United States District Court for the District of Nevada ruled in favor of Pilling, writing that the rule was viewpoint neutral.

In June 2012 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard the case on appeal. The SPLC took a unique interest in the case in order to maintain the right of students to use clothing for political speech and uphold the Tinker Doctrine. The SPLC contends that since dress is one of the few forums still left open for student free speech the court should uphold the right of students to use dress to express political concerns. The SPLC further asked that the Tinker ruling be upheld and that students should be able to wear material, at least on their uniform, to protest various activities. Finally, non-compliance with a statute such as this one would not constitute an undue burden on the school.

In 2014, a panel of the Ninth Circuit reversed the District Court, finding, among other things, that the mandatory display of the school motto was compelled speech.

Read the opinion.